Prep Countdown: No. 8 Winchendon

Mike Byrnes had a roster that looked to have few, if any, weaknesses. All that changed when Memphis-bound big man Hashim Bailey didn't show at Winchendon. Now Byrnes & Co. will have to run and gun and rely on a strong backcourt corps.

Winchendon coach Mike Byrnes was ecstatic about his team entering the fall. He had an abundance of guards – guys who could score, guys who could run the team and guards who could defend. Byrnes also had talented wings and a pair of big guys.

However, Byrnes and his assistant, Alex Magay, were caught off-guard when Hashim Bailey, a 6-foot-10 Memphis commitment, was sent to Patterson School (N.C.) instead of Winchendon.

``With Bailey not showing up, we're thin up front," Byrnes said. "We'll have to play small, but hopefully we'll beat teams with our athleticism and defensive toughness. The biggest question is how we'll rebound the ball."

However, since the fall, Byrnes & Co. received some good news when they got 6-foot-7, 235-pound Muhammed Conteh, who played at Bloomington South (Ind.) last year.

Byrnes will still rely heavily on his backcourt play.

Lawrence Westbrook (Iowa State) should provide the bulk of the scoring punch. The former Chandler High (Ariz.) standout, who averaged a nation-high 41 points per contest last season and boasts a 3.7 GPA, can fill it up.

Ricky Harris is a 6-foot, 175-pound guard who played at Calvert Hall (Md.) has re-opened his recruitment after committing to Loyola (Md.). Fellow Baltimore native Brian Johnson (5-10, 175) has won everywhere he's played and is looking at Akron, George Mason and Delaware.

But the most talented member of the backcourt is sophomore floor leader Darius Gabriel, a New York native who came over from Bishop Loughlin. Gabriel is quick, strong, aggressive and makes his teammates better.

Keith Cothran, a fairly unknown wing from Connecticut who favors Rhode Island, will join Kashif Watson, a Las Vegas native who signed with San Diego State, as a potent 1-2 combo on the wing. Andre Boutte, a 6-foot-5 Texan who can shoot it from the perimeter, should give Winchendon a threat from long-range.

Greg Washington, a 6-9 thin Hofstra signee, needs to put on weight and more importantly, stay out of foul trouble. Emmanuel Adako, a 6-foot-7 ½, 240-pound Decatur, Ga., native who once signed with Eastern Kentucky prior to the coaching change, will have to become a consistent rebounder for Winchendon to finish in the upper-echelon in the prep ranks.

``Greg is a lot better than I thought he was," Byrnes said. "He can score in the post. I'd like for him to be stronger and rebound more, but he's been a pleasant surprise so far."

Other players who should vie for time include Oppong Agyemang (6-1, 175), Andy Covington (6-3, 175), Robert Bowen (6-1, 175), Sean Talbot (6-3, 175) and Chuck Anakwenze (6-5, 175).

``This is the closest team we've ever had," Byrnes said. "They spend a lot of time together and when they play, they're competitive but they're together. Winning is very important to them. At this point, I haven't seen any selfishness in any of them."

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